If I say, “Mary had a little ______.” You are going to think, “lamb.” There’s no amount of meditation or positive thinking which could get you to not think of the word “lamb” there. This is what happens when people tell themselves, “just don’t tilt.” It’s like trying to not think of the word “lamb” when you read that sentence. It’s impossible.
Similarly, we see someone hit a three outter and we’re programmed to go, “f***ing donkey!!!” You cannot get rid of any word or algorithm that has been programmed into your memory. But you can replace it with something else.
If I said, “Mary had a little rocket launcher outfitted with a gas-cooled seeker” then it’s possible you’ll forget the word, “lamb.” If I created a funny Youtube music video that made a joke song out of those lyrics, it’s more likely you’d forget the word “lamb.” If I made you watch that video every day for the rest of your life, you’d really have a tough time remembering the word “lamb” in that sentence. If you’re laughing at this, you shouldn’t be. This is how the human mind works. Facts and figures do not stay in our memory. Visuals and stories do.
Have you ever read the book Moonwalking With Einstein? It’s about those psychopaths who literally memorize the order of 50+ decks of cards at a time. Many of them use techniques like this. They tell themselves stories involving all the cards, and that’s how they train their mind to serve them the information they need.
We need to do something like this at the table. And while rocket launchers are fun to think about, I would suggest another phrase for you to repeat constantly: “I am responsible.”
Did a guy river an ace on you after you’d been betting top pair and he was floating with ace high? Your initial thought is going to be something akin to, “this is why I can never win a f***ing tournament. Donkeys like this keep galloping up to take pots from me-“ SHORT CIRCUIT THIS. This snowflake victimhood bullshit is not going to help you win the tournament.
But here’s the thing: You can’t just tell yourself “don’t think of that, don’t tilt.” That won’t work. Mary had a little… No, instead you need to replace it with something. And that phrase should be, “I am responsible.”
Notice, you’re not saying, “this is my fault.” Blaming yourself constantly and drowning in your “woe unto me” stories is just as narcissistic as telling everyone what a great poker player you are every 14 seconds. It’s a way of excusing yourself from the hard work. “Look, it’s okay I lost because I really hated myself for how things panned out.”
No. You start with “I am responsible.”
Someone hit a flush on you and you made a bad call? The flush draw coming in is not your fault. The bad call might not even be that bad of a call when you work it out later. We’re not assigning fault right now. That’s not going to help you. What is going to help you is… “I am responsible.”
You need to get your head back in the game! You are responsible for your reaction to this situation, right here, right now!
If some neighborhood kid eggs your house, that is not your fault. But you are responsible for your response. You are responsible for going to his parents and demanding restitution. If you instead find the 13-year-old who orchestrated the egging and kick his ass, you are responsible for your violent reaction in the eyes of the law.
You are always responsible, even if something is not your fault.
You call an all-in for most of your chips and you have Kings to A-J, but then the guy hits his ace on the river? Here goes the old algorithm: “This is why I never win these tournaments, I bet that young pro has never had this happen to him in his life-“
REPEAT IT TO YOURSELF.
“I am responsible. I am responsible. I am responsible. I am responsible.”
Just gun it into your mind till you believe it, man up, and play out this tournament! Do not give up! You would be amazed at how much this helps you in tournament poker.
Almost every tournament win comes after the victor of the tournament lost most of his chips at some point. 40 left. 20 left. Sometimes with two people left. It’s very rare for a 1st place finisher to not lose 50-75% of his chips at some point late in the tournament. If he’s not prepared to be a responsible player during this time, he is not going to win the tournament.
There’s a reason we have a term for when this huge lost pot doesn’t happen. We say that player went “wire-to-wire.”
Take responsibility for each moment of the tournament. Repeat it until it’s beaten into your mind. Never use your tilt as a justification for a wild play. Be the tough tournament warhorse you know you can be.
Good luck to all of you.